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Little mutation in bird flu infections

VIRAL analysis of patients infected with bird flu on the Chinese mainland found no mutation that could cause human-to-human infection, Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed yesterday that birds from northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region had tested positive for the disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture said 519 fowl had died of bird flu in Hotan, a southern prefecture.

The ministry and the regional government said they had taken emergency measures to deal with the epidemic, killing 13,218 fowl.

Also yesterday, a dead large-billed crow found on Hong Kong's outlying Lantau Island was confirmed to have died of bird flu, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government said.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the dead bird was found at the Ancient Kiln Park on Lantau last Thursday. The department said there were no poultry farms within three kilometers of the site but authorities will continue to remain highly vigilant.

Unusual finds

Gabriel Leung, Hong Kong's Under Secretary for Food and Health, said at a Legislative Council meeting that authorities had found 33 dead birds since January 29.

The dead birds were mostly found at sparsely populated places, he added. Leung admitted it was unusual to find so many dead birds within a couple of days, adding that authorities were still conducting tests on 22 of the birds.

On the mainland, Mao said eight people were found to have contracted H5N1 this year and five had died. Scientists found little mutation in the virus strains taken from those patients, and no mutation that would allow human-to-human transmission.

Mao said the other three patients recovered. A three-year-old girl surnamed Peng in north China's Shanxi Province and a 29-year-old man surnamed Zhou in southwestern China's Guizhou Province were released from the hospital a few days ago.

A patient in central China's Hunan Province surnamed Shu also recovered after treatment and will be released from the hospital soon, Mao said.


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